Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Update: Excavations

I've added 22 more authors to my Overwhelming List as a result of recent excavations.  Not very many lovely photos this time, but hey, an image of the opening credits of a movie is better than nothing, right?

As usual, there were a few writers that jumped out at me from this batch:

KITTY BARNE was the author of numerous well-regarded children's books and six novels for adults—often making use of show business themes and settings.  She received particular acclaim for her wartime works for children—including Visitors from London (1940), about evacuees, and We'll Meet in England (1942), about two Norwegian children who escape the Nazi occupation in a boat and make their way to England.  Also intriguing to me is Musical Honours (1947), which the Christian Science Monitor called "an entrancing story about life in England today during rationing and reconstruction."  I haven't located any significant information about her novels for adults—Mother at Large (1938), While the Music Lasted (1943), Enter Two Musicians (1944), Duet for Sisters (1947), Vespa (1950), and Music Perhaps (1957).

ETHEL BOILEAU was a novelist who published eleven novels in the 1920s and 1930s, then came back with one more in 1947.  Contemporary reviews and other references to her novels make it hard to know whether one would want to read her or not.  The Bookman summarized The Box of Spikenard (1923) thus: "Some husbands treat the precious ointment of a woman's love as if it were cold cream to be used after shaving."  An advertisement for The Map of Days (1935) says: "Romance novel of a modern Lancelot, a giant of a soldier, an ardent lover—destined to live and love greatly, and to have a strange power over women. Includes elements of second sight, mysticism, and the First World War."  Wow.  But while I'm pretty sure the Bookman's assessment of Gay Family (1933) is intended to be negative, it sounds kind of seductive to me: "It must be a tradition in Deepshire, that Ruritanian part of England where so many novels are laid, that no one is ever profound. Mallory Court, the scene of Mrs. Boileau's baffling roman, is in Deepshire, and its inhabitants are simply gaga."  All of which leads me to believe that when Book Parade referred to When Yellow Leaves… (1934) as "possessing those rare, elusive qualities so difficult to describe," they weren't just whistling Dixie!

Gay Family made it to a 10th printing...

...and rode right on to a 17th printing!

KATHERINE DUNNING was the author of only four novels— Stephen Sherrin (1932), The Spring Begins (1934), Whatever the Heart Appoints (1950) and The Bright Blue Eye (1952).  I'm particularly interested in The Spring Begins, which The New York Times called: "A book about present-day English country life with no mention of the dole, decaying county families or general economic ferment is a rarity. Katherine Dunning's novel proves that it can be an interesting story as well, and a relief from problem literature of the depression."  Saturday Review summed it up as "emotional turmoil among the domestics of a large English country estate."  For better or worse, that's enough to pique my interest.

HARRIET HENRY, who may turn out to be American, wrote several novels that sound like breezy romances.  In 1932, the Bookman said of The Rakish Halo: "An unmarried city girl, normally attractive and with plenty of opportunity to meet men, solves the problem of whether or not to keep her halo, and, if so, at what angle it should be worn."  This one could probably go either way…

CYNTHIA LOMBARDI could probably go either way too.  She published four novels in the 1920s and 1930s, of which I've so far come across information about only one.  Saturday Review's pithy and puzzling summation of Autumn's Torch (1935): "Our heroine, the lovely and socially-placed widow, goes overboard for a sleek operatic tenor. But he married a tight-rope walker!"  What to make of that?!

MABOTH MOSELEY published four novels in the 1930s, of which War Upon Women (1934), described as a futuristic comedy about a dictator's effects on women, sounds most intriguing.

ELEANOR SMITH was a highly successful writer of popular romantic novels, many of them making use of the Gypsy culture from which she claimed her grandmother hailed.  Harold Nicolson gave Flamenco (1931) a rave review: "an unforgettable book ... it pulsates with passion ... It rouses the emotions of pity and terror and solves them in a burst of lyrical beauty."  Smith's connections with the ballet world come out in Ballerina (1932), and Lovers' Meeting (1940) incorporates a time-travel element in its love story.  She has also received some attention for Satan's Circus and Other Stories (1932), which contains several stories of the supernatural.

Eleanor Smith

Smith's debut, Red Wagon, was made into a movie

MARGARET YORKE was a successful crime writer, and her crime novels, which focus particularly on the psychology of ordinary people driven by circumstances to commit crimes, do sound interesting, but of course I also wonder about her now-obscure early novels from the 1950s, which have been described as family dramas but about which I've found little other information.

Margaret Yorke

Here's the complete list of new bios.  All have already been added to thmain list.

BETTY ARMITAGE (dates unknown)

Diarist whose record of life in rural Norfolk during World War II was found in a shed and published in 2002 as Betty's Wartime Diary 1939-1945; Armitage had been a theatrical dresser and seamstress prior to the war.

KITTY BARNE (1883-1957)
(full name Marion Catherine Barne)

Playwright, novelist, and children's author; her wartime fiction was particularly acclaimed, including Visitors from London (1940), about evacuees, and Musical Honours (1947), about a family facing postwar conditions; adult novels include Mother at Large (1938) and Vespa (1950).

E. M. BARRAUD (dates unknown)

Memoirist best known for her World War II memoir Set My Hand Upon the Plough (1945), about the Women's Land Army; she wrote one more memoir, Tail Corn (1948), about East Anglia, and Barraud: The Story of a Family (1967), a history of her own family.

ETHEL BOILEAU (1882-1942)

Author of twelve novels from the 1920s to 1940s, which appear widely varied in subject, including The Box of Spikenard (1923), When Yellow Leaves... (1934), Ballade in G Minor (1938), and Gay Family (1933), which sounds intriguing despite a lukewarm Bookman review.

(née Taylor)

More research needed; author of six novels in the 1930s—The Uttermost Gift (1932), Summer's Lease (1932), The Jade Lotus (1933), Dark Background (1934), Half a House (1935), and So Much for Charity (1937).

GERTRUDE DUNN (1884-????)

More research needed; not to be confused with Gertrude Colmore, whose real name was also Dunn; apparently the author of only three novels—Unholy Depths (1926), The Mark of the Bat (1928), and So Forever (1929)—all dealing with supernatural themes.

KATHERINE DUNNING (dates unknown)

Forgotten author of two well-received novels of the 1930s—Stephen Sherrin (1932) and The Spring Begins (1934), the latter set on a large country estate—and two more postwar novels, Whatever the Heart Appoints (1950) and The Bright Blue Eye (1952).

SARAH GRAND (1854-1943)
(pseudonym of Frances Elizabeth Bellenden McFall, née Clarke)

Activist and novelist of social issues, best known for her scandalous bestseller The Heavenly Twins (1893), which initiated the "new woman" novel, and her autobiographical The Beth Book (1897); later work includes Adnam's Orchard (1912) and The Winged Victory (1916).

JOAN GRANT (1907-1989)
(aka J. M. Grant)

Author of historical novels which she claimed provided details of her own past lives and featured themes of reincarnation, astral travel, and the occult; titles include Winged Pharaoh (1937), Life as Carola (1939), Scarlet Feather (1945), and a memoir, Time Out of Mind (1956, aka Far Memory).

HARRIET HENRY (dates unknown)

Author of seven novels 1928-1936, which appear to have been perky romances; titles include Halves (1928), The Rakish Halo (1932), Lady with a Past (1932), Jackdaws Strut (1933), and Burn, Candle, Burn (1936).


Granddaughter of painter William Holman Hunt; author of two memoirs—My Grandmothers and I (1960), about her childhood with two eccentric grandmothers, and My Grandfather, His Life and Loves (1969), about Hunt—as well as a biography of Chilean painter Álvaro Guevara (1974).

CYNTHIA LOMBARDI (dates unknown)

More research needed; author of four novels—A Cry of Youth (1920), At Sight of Gold (1922), Lighting Seven Candles (1926), and Autumn's Torch (1935); of the last, Saturday Review said, "Our heroine … goes overboard for a sleek operatic tenor. But he married a tight-rope walker!"

MARY LUTYENS (1908-1999)
(aka Esther Wyndham)

Daughter of architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and a prolific novelist and biographer; novels include Family Colouring (1940) and Above the Clouds (1954); biographies include Millais and the Ruskins (1967) and a 3-volume bio of Krishnamurti (1983-90); her memoir is To Be Young (1959).

MABOTH MOSELEY (1906-1975)

Author of four novels—Cold Surge (1930), This Lady Was a Gentleman (1931), God Created Them Apart (1932), and War Upon Women (1934), the last a futuristic comedy about a dictator's affects on women; later, she wrote a biography of inventor Charles Babbage (1964).

DOROTHY M. NEVILL (dates unknown)

More research needed; apparently the author of only one book, Mrs. Moore's Mishaps and Other Humorous Short Stories (1933).

(aka Mary Adelaide Eden Ross)

Daughter of Eden Phillpotts, whose career spanned an incredible 75 years, including plays, poetry, and novels; titles include A Marriage (1928), The Gallant Heart (1939), and From Jane to John (1943); her memoir, which made shocking allegations about her father, was Reverie (1981).

M[ONA]. A[UGUSTA]. RADFORD (dates unknown)
(née Mangan)

Author, with her husband Edwin, of more than 30 mystery novels, many featuring series detective Inspector Manson (later Dr.?); titles include Heel of Achilles (1950), Married to Murder (1959), and Mask of Murder (1965); they also collaborated on an Encyclopaedia of Superstitions (1948).

ELEANOR SMITH (1902-1945)

Successful author of romantic novels, often about figures on the fringes of society, such as Red Wagon (1930), Flamenco (1931), which Harold Nicolson called "unforgettable," and Ballerina (1932), as well as darker, supernatural tales like those in the collection Satan's Circus (1932).


More research needed; author of romance novels, including Nurse (1933), and others with irresistible titles like Three Make Their Bed (1936), Rhythm Romeo (1937), Cad's Kisses (1941), Two-Man Girl (1942), and W.A.A.F. Into Wife (1943).

(née Robbins)

Artist and short story author, wife of H. G. Wells, who, following her death, collected her stories and poetry into the volume The Book of Catherine Wells (1928), which included some tales of the supernatural.

DORIS WESTWOOD (dates unknown)

Author of four novels—Starr Bladon (1930), The Hair Shirt (1932), An April Day (1934), and Humble Servant (1936)—the latter two, at least, making use of a Siegfried Sassoon-like character; oddly, one Sassoon biographer says she had an affair with Sassoon, another that they never met…

MARGARET YORKE (1924-2012)
(pseudonym of Margaret Beda Larminie)

Known for her crime fiction set in English villages, featuring ordinary people driven by circumstance to crime—including No Medals for the Major (1974) and The Point of Murder (1978)—Yorke had earlier published family dramas such as Summer Flight (1957) and Deceiving Mirror (1960).


  1. Arnold Bennett reviewed "Red Wagon" in 1930. He was impressed by it as a first novel.
    See https://earnoldbennett.blogspot.com/

  2. Hello there Scott. You might like to know that Katherine Dunning also published a novel Fortune's Yoke under the name Katherine Ronell. You might be even further interested to investigate the novels of E H Lomer and Caroline Rowe. These good souls were, respectively my great aunt and my grandmother. You can read a bit about my grandmother's books here
    Delighted to find reference to some old favourites like Nora Lofts, Mary Webb, E Nesbit and Elizabeth Goudge. Novels from this period are so interesting from a social history point of view, as well as being examples of the changing fashions in writing aren't they?

  3. Just came across your blog. My mother owned Katherine Dunning, The Spring Begins and I read it as a teenager in England. My mother's copy vanished many years ago and no copies are for sale. It is a work written from the viewpoint of women (with men in control) and cannot be termed in any way feminist. However, I recall it vividly (particularly Hetty, the major character) and I think it deserves republication. Roderick

  4. Further to my last on Dunning. Web entries. The 1933 US copyright registration of The Spring Begins gives her as Rhona Katherine Dunning residing at St. Leonard's near Brighton Sussex England. Ancestry.com gives someone of that name as born in 1901 or 1907, residing in Sussex in 1939 and dying in Oxfordshire in 1978. I don't subscribe to Ancestry.com so I can't check the details. Roderick


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